M.C. Mehta Vs University Grants Commission Ors

Posted on
17 July 2014
M.C. Mehta
University Grants Commission Ors.
Original Application No. 12/2014

Judicial and Expert Members: Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar, Mr. Justice M.S. Nambiar, Dr. D.K. Agrawal, Mr. A.R. Yousuf, Dr. R.C.Trivedi

Keywords: M.C. Mehta, Supreme Court, University Grants Commission, UGC, environment, education, school, All India Council of Technical Education

Application dismissed

Dated: 17 July 2014

The applicant had instituted a writ petition being Civil Writ Petition No. 860/1991 titled M.C. Mehta v. Union of India before the Supreme Court of India which came to be disposed off by the judgment of the Supreme Court of India dated 22nd November, 1991 whereby the Supreme Court gave various directions to the Central and the State Governments for providing compulsory environmental education to the students of schools and colleges throughout the country. The University Grants Commission (for short ‘UGC’) on 13th July, 2004 submitted before the Supreme Court that they have prepared a common syllabus and the same is being implemented by various educational institutions. The All India Council of Technical Education on 6th August, 2004 informed the Supreme Court that it had already prepared a syllabus which includes ‘environmental science’ and which is being updated and would be introduced from the next academic year. The syllabus pertaining to environmental education has been prescribed and the guidelines have been framed but according to the applicant, teachers who are not qualified in terms of the UGC Guidelines are teaching the subject. The teachers who have specialized in Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Electronics, Political Science, Sociology, Mathematics, Physical Education, Home Science, Computer Science etc. have been assigned the task of teaching the subject of environmental science; in the most cosmetic way, which is against the letter and spirit of the judgment/orders passed by the Supreme Court of India. It is also averred by the applicant that a number of States like the State of Haryana, Punjab, Goa, Mizoram, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh amongst others have not complied with the directions of the Supreme Court of India, as afore-noticed. None of these States has taken any steps to appoint qualified teachers who are competent to teach environmental science. The eligible teachers are the ones who have qualified the National Eligibility Test (NET) in Environment Science or Ph.D. in terms of UGC guidelines. The whole purpose of making ‘Environment’ as a compulsory subject, hence, stands defeated. While referring to some of the States, the applicant makes a particular reference to the States of Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. The applicant stated that except for holding the meetings, the State Governments have not taken any concrete steps for compliance or for implementation of the above directions. In fact, they have been exchanging letters on what should or should not be the qualifications of the teachers who would teach the subject of Environment Science.
A number of States have been impleaded as respondents in the present application along with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The applicant submits that the action of the respondent, in not providing environment education properly in the Colleges, Institutes and Universities is against the spirit of the order passed by the Supreme Court of India as well as the affidavit given by the State Governments before the Apex Court. Article 48A of the Constitution provides that the States should endure to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 51A(g) of the Constitution imposes as one of the fundamental duties on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife and to have compassion for the living creatures. While referring to these provisions the applicant submits that lack of education in environment science would prejudicially affect the spirit of these Articles and thus, the applicant has been compelled to approach this Tribunal for redressal of his grievances.

The petitioner has made the following prayer to the Court:
I. issue direction/directions to the Respondents to ensure that compulsory subject of Environment studies is taught by the qualified/eligible teachers/Astt professors having specialization in post graduate degree i.e. M.Sc Environmental Science with NET qualified or Ph.D. in terms of UGC guidelines in the State of Haryana and other States and union Territories for providing proper environmental education to the students at Under Graduate and Post Graduate level from Academic Session 2014 in both Government and Private Universities/ colleges in India.
II. take appropriate Action against the Respondents for not implementing the judgments/ orders of the Supreme Court given vide Direction Number IV passed on 22.11.1991 in W.P.(C) No. 860 of 1991 and subsequent orders; and
III. pass such other order/ orders as may be deemed necessary on the facts and circumstances of the case.
The Tribunal does not find merit in the application because environment education cannot be included in the definition of implementation under Schedule I of the NGT Act.
The expression ‘substantial question relating to environment’ or ‘enforcement of any legal right relating to environment’ cannot be interpreted so generically that it would even include the education relating to environment. Furthermore, the expression ‘implementation’ understood in its correct perspective cannot be extended, to empower the Tribunal to issue directions in relation to service matters involving environmental sciences.

A phrase of significant importance appearing in Section 14 of the NGT Act is ‘arises out of the implementation of enactment specified in Schedule I’. Even in this phrase, the word ‘implementation’ is of essence. ‘Implementation’ in common parlance means to take forward a decision or to take steps in furtherance to a decision or a provision of law. Nexus between the dispute raised before the Tribunal for determination and the environment has to be direct. When the framers of law use the expression ‘substantial question relating to environment’, it clearly conveys the legislative intent of ensuring that the disputes determinable by the Tribunal have to relate to environment and not allied fields thereto.

The applicant has submitted that firstly in all colleges and institutions, environmental science is not a subject and wherever it has been introduced as a subject, it is not being taught by qualified teachers. This is the substance of the application. It clearly falls within the framework of the constitution and/or service jurisprudence. It does not raise any substantial question of environmental jurisprudence understood in its correct perspective within the provisions of the NGT Act and the Scheduled Acts thereto. The contention that ‘mass education’ in Section 16(e) of the Water Act and 16 (f) of the Air Act would come to the aid of the applicant for issuance of such a direction, is again misconceived. Organizing through mass media a comprehensive programme regarding the prevention and control of water and air pollution, would not take in its cover the education or service jurisprudence in relation to environmental science as a subject of education. The programmes contemplated under these provisions must relate to prevention and control of pollution and not what should be the terms and conditions of appointment of teachers and how the environmental science should be taught in an educational institution. An activity for prevention and control of pollution must be discernibly distinguished and understood as such from education and conditions of service of teachers as enumerated under the constitutional provisions or the notifications issued by the UGC or the Universities. The applicant claims that a legal right as envisaged under Section 14 of the NGT Act has accrued in his favour as a result of the Order of the Supreme Court dated 22nd November, 1991 referred supra. There cannot be a dispute to the preposition that the orders and judgments declared by the Supreme Court would be the law of the land and are enforceable throughout the territory of India in accordance with law. However, the direction of the Supreme Court in the above case, clearly falls within the domain of constitutional or service law. It is for the applicant to approach the appropriate forum/court for enforcement of that direction. In the Tribunal’s considered view it would not fall within the ambit of Section 14 of the NGT Act as neither does it raise any substantial question relating to environment nor does the implementation of the Scheduled Acts arise.
This application is, therefore, dismissed as not maintainable.


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